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Leadership & Lead Paint - Its LEAD-ership

We got into the house over the weekend and ripped out the old, dirty carpeting in the downstairs to expose some pretty nice wide-plank pine that we're probably going to refinish. We also ripped off some ugly wood paneling in the dining room to expose old plaster & lathe walls that are in better shape than you could reasonably hope for. Only one small plaster patch will be needed - the rest was workable with spackle and elastometric joint compound (ahh, the wonders of science). Unfortunately, we discovered that some paint on the trim in the dining room is lead based. Its stable though, so not much of a worry. The real problem is that the paint that is on the wood flooring is also lead based, which means we're going to have to strip the heck out of it before we can sand it for the refinishing. Fortunately, we found a stripper that works pretty well, so I'm thinking this won't be too bad a job. My brother & dad are coming in from Iowa to help with the sanding, and I should be able to work up some kids to come over and help with the paint stripping (again, its stable so it poses little risk). So there's the lead, now for the leadership.

We have our routine staff meeting today, and the senior pastor pulls out packets for each of us taken from a book on leadership and announces we will be spending 15 minutes every staff meeting going through this book. "Lesson One: What is a leader?" Part of lessone one is filing out an acrostic with the word leader - what do you think of one when you hear the word leader? L is for...., E is for...., etc. But there are right & wrong answers! These apparently make up section titles for upcoming lessons, which seems to belie that whole "what do YOU think" thing. After that, we go through a series of leadership myths. #1 Leaders are made not born. #2 Leadership is a rare skill. There were a total of 5 - I'll not bore you with the rest.

So, you want to know what I think when I hear the word leader? I think "unrealistic" and "unusual." I think "overdone" and "over-emphasized." I think if I hear "leaders lead" one more time I'll have to stand up on the table and start barking like a dog whilst doing the chicken dance. Why, you ask? Because, in my mind, this is one of the most overdrawn, overdone, intellectually bankrupt things that has ever cropped up in the church. Not everyone can be a leader! Not everyone has what it takes to be in charge! So why do we act as if this is not the case? My church favors the definition that says "leadership is influence," with a little "leaders do what others won't" mixed in. Guess what? A whole lot of people won't do what the janitor does - does that make him a leader or a guy with a crummy job? And leadership as influence so reduces and dilutes our idea of true leadership that it isn't any wonder we are facing a leadership crisis (not sure if this is only perceived or not). If me, you and 95% of the congregation can all be considered "leaders" then who exactly are we leading? And why on earth do we need so much leadership training?

I think the reality is that "leadership" has become the latest cure for what ails us, and honestly, it is difficult to argue against it. Its like pointing out the problems with democracy - the highly committed don't want to hear it and can only consider a doubter to be morally and genetically suspect. But producing ever more leaders isn't going to fix anything - its only going to muddy the waters even more. What we need is better, clearer leadership that inspires and motivates people, not more "influencers" running around cleaning toilets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Be careful with the floors; I know it’s a hassle, but with lead paint, even the stripping residue and sanding dust are hazardous materials. You may want to check your local removal/disposal regulations if you have a significant area to strip.

I know what you mean about the leadership thing. We always have leadership classes, but I never remember a “servant” training class being offered. Some of the better authors on this are Robert K. Greenleaf and Max De Pree. They both concentrate on the servant aspects. I think you’d particularly like Greenleaf.